Paul Stafford explains why having a solid defence is so important to winning league titles.
Liverpool must improve their defence if they are to become genuine title contenders. I know, it sounds like a broken record, but I cannot emphasise enough the importance of a solid defensive foundation to challenge for Liverpool’s first title in over 20 years.
As much as I like Jurgen Klopp and his style, I think he is a bit naïve when it comes to defence. While all of his focus has been on attack, defence is more of an afterthought. His philosophy of compensating for their defensive shortcomings is to defend higher up the pitch as a first line of defence, but this tactic will only work if it’s based on a solid defensive foundation.
Managers such as Guardiola, Conte and Mourinho seem to know that the key to winning titles is to build on a solid defence. I watched the Manchester City vs. Chelsea game. There were superstars all over the pitch, but it is the quality that both sides possess in defence which makes them both title contenders.
I kept thinking that I was watching the two title contenders battle it out for supremacy, but where does that leave Liverpool? It leaves them on the outside looking in. Liverpool beat a Chelsea side at the Bridge that was still finding its feet under Conte. It was the right time to play them but when they come to Anfield they will be extremely difficult to beat. Liverpool also take on City on New Year’s and they will also be difficult to beat. With Klopp’s shaky defence leaking in goals, how will they be able to contain the likes of Aguero, De Bruyne, Silva or even Costa, Hazard, Pedro and Willian?
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I really like Joel Matip. He is a cultured center half who reminds me of Alan Hansen, but I also think that Lovren would be better suited as a back up. I would like to see Virgil Van Dijk added to the ranks in January. To me, that would be more important than bringing in another attacker. Yes, I know that Mane will be gone but if Liverpool can stop leaking goals, they can be among Chelsea and City at the end of the season. After all, if an opposing team cannot score against them, then they cannot win. This will give Liverpool the foundation to build from the back.
Sturridge, Origi and Lallana will come good, coupled with Firmino and possibly Woodburn – with more game time on their hands, these players will gain in the confidence of playing with each other week-in, week-out. With the cool-headed Matip mopping up at the back, and the gritty no-nonsense style of Van Dijk, Liverpool would have that solid foundation to build upon.
I also believe, as many do, that Liverpool have been lacking a quality defensive midfielder to support the defence. Players such as Henderson, Can, Lucas and Wijnaldum have been used there, but they are more suited in attack, and Lucas always mistimes his challenges, awarding a free kick in a dangerous area.
But who could they bring in January to solve this problem? That is a question best left to the manager. One thing is for sure, Klopp has his work cut out for him in January if he wants to win his first Premier League title.